Between summer‘s easygoing vibe and pandemic-related shifts in your routine, if you’ve let yourself grow a little relaxed about your personal care routine lately—well, that definitely doesn’t single you out. But, of all the snacks and sips that perhaps you’ve been enjoying, there are a few that could seriously damage your teeth if you’re not practicing decent dental hygiene. What are the worst foods and drinks for your teeth? We have the answer, from an authority.
Dr. Ronald Plotka, DDS, is a Boston area dentist with over 40 years of experience, Executive Director of the dental program at Marian Court College, and founder of MouthWatchers toothbrushes with naturally antimicrobial flossing bristles. As the conclusion of summer invites a little more discipline and routine into your days, Dr. Plotka shared exclusively with Eat This, Not That! which foods to be mindful about as we head into fall.
Perhaps not a shocker, Plotka says the high concentration of sugar in candy—particularly sticky or sour candy—interacts with bacteria within plaque and releases a harsh acid that breaks down enamel. This leads to cavities and tooth decay.
Even worse, candy that’s stuck to your teeth can prolong acid production, increasing your risk of tooth decay.
Plotka explains that bread is a dental health culprit because your saliva breaks down bread’s starches into sugar. That sugar gives way to acid production, which breaks down teeth.
Fortunately, this dentist has advice for anyone who doesn’t want to entirely give up bread! “Choose whole wheat bread that has minimal sugar,” he says.
There’s nothing wrong with letting the good times roll… but when the party wraps up, Plotka recommends you brush up. “Alcohol causes dry mouth, which means there is a lack of saliva to wash away cavity causing sugary acids,” he explains. One preventive pointer? “Remember to drink water while you are enjoying alcohol responsibly!”
If you relish in any of these treats regularly, Plotka assures you: “Do not worry!” Next, he offers food, and pro tips, that can help keep your mouth healthy.
“Any vegetable or fruit that is rich in fiber is a good choice for your oral health,” Plotka advises. “The fibrous texture of the fruit or vegetable can help keep your teeth clean and triggers saliva production.” He adds these are also good for “oral clearance” of sticky foods that cling to the teeth.
Vegetables and fruits are also valuable for your for gums, Plotka says, because they supply vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help support gum and bone health.
In particular, Plotka lists celery, carrots, leafy green vegetables, and apples among the produce picks he recommends for good oral health.
Plotka calls dairy “a home run” for your teeth, adding: “Not only do milk, cheese, and yogurt produce significant saliva, but the calcium and phosphates found in dairy products help to remineralize and strengthen tooth enamel.”
Plotka says it’s important to intentionally opt for low-sugar foods—not only because of what he explained about candy, but also for this fascinating reason: “Foods low in sugar will reduce the risk of inflammation, which can lead to the breakdown of the gums.”
Plotka says one key to keeping teeth healthy is to sip water throughout the day. This will “help rinse away sugary acid and ward off plaque buildup,” he explains.
One insightful tip for anyone with an incessant sweet tooth: “If you can’t live without your sugary treats, eat them at mealtimes when they are most likely to be rinsed away due to extra saliva production,” Plotka says. (Gotta love those real-life solutions!)
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